My doctors missed the cancer for 1 ½ years. It took sitting down with my doctor and telling him I was dying to get his attention. That day in May 2015, I had 2 CT Scans. On my way home my doctor called me and told me I had a lot of fluid around my heart and that he was trying to get me a cardiologist appointment that afternoon, A FRIDAY! He could not but he did get one for Monday morning.
The cardiologist did a cardiogram, my heart function was 35% and he told me he wanted to do an ultrasound as well and come back Friday. If I tried to lie down, I could not breathe. I spent 3 weeks at the kitchen table, sitting in a chair with my head on a pillow on the table slowly suffocating. After he did the ultrasound, he said I needed a pacemaker, totally ignoring the fluid around my heart. He didn't do pacemakers so he referred me to someone that did.
On Monday, I was being "sold" a pacemaker, all this doc would guarantee is that she was 60% sure it would fix my issue. My wife convinced me to have it done. At 1PM June 1st, while awake and listening, they installed this thing. One week later I still could not breathe. We had the pacemaker checked and they said it was working fine and actually working my heart 80% of the time. On June 19th, I had a biopsy to check for sarcoidosis and that’s when they found layers of tumors on a lymph node in my neck. While I was still under, the doctor was telling my wife I had Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer – Stage IV and to see an oncologist immediately.
On June 25th, 2015 I had my first oncologist appointment and they told my wife and me to take care of my affairs, I had less than 6 months to live. During my first hospital stay, on July 3rd, 2015, I had a pericardial window performed on the sack around my heart. They relieved me of 1500 ml of fluid off of my heart. I was real close to gone. A pulmonary doctor was then trying to treat a lung infection for the next three weeks. It was cancer, not an infection.
On July 22nd, 2015 I started chemo. I had not been able to work for a year at this point, neither could my wife, she was taking care of me on a full time basis. In October 2015 I was told I was cancer free but needed rehab to regain muscle and a maintenance program to keep the cancer from coming back.
News years day of 2016 I went into the hospital not able to breathe again, the cancer was back. The doctors went thru my back and drained 4000 ml of fluid off of the sack around my left lung over a 3 day period. They then installed a Denver Catheter so we could drain my lungs at home. I started a new chemo in January. It was better than the old chemo that ate so much of my muscle that I could hardly walk or pick up a plate of food. I went from 275 lbs. to 198 lbs. in 2 months with the old chemo. At this point I was real close to death once again. The new chemo, Opdivo, worked for 14 months then quit.
A new chemo is being given now. This new chemo is worse than the first! I hurt so bad in every joint that I called a family member and told them not to be angry with me if I took my own life. The pain was so bad that if this is all that was left, I was done. Adjustments to the chemo medication have been made over time and it isn't as bad now.
June 12th, 2017, I got pneumonia and was intubated to keep me alive and let my lungs get a break.
It has been a long road but I haven’t given up. In January of 2017, I tried making one of my lifetime dreams come true while trying to create some sort of income. We did a build out on a diner in a bar, with my lung capacity being so low, it was slow going. We finally opened it in late March and had our grand opening in April. The owner, after the build out was completed, stood in the way of everything we tried to do to increase business. I could expound but it would just make me angry again. We closed the grill not only with a financial loss on July 30th but with an emotional loss on several levels.
During this season in my life, Waller Baptist Church has helped me a great deal. They have a great group of members and while I have had many questions and so many people have been praying for me from all over, I am sure we have God’s attention! There are things I still do not understand but I’m a work in progress as everyone is! Pastor Blake reminds me of Hubert Plumlee from the Galena Park Church of Christ (I went there growing up). A soft spoken teacher with a heart of gold, outgoing but thoughtful, a really down to earth good man. If you are looking for a place to worship and grow, Waller Baptist Church is a place you would feel welcomed. I and the congregation are a little different; we believe that you do not have to be a Baptist in order to go to Heaven. We believe that following the word of God is the requirement, not the name of your church.
It has been 3+ years with zero income. We have gone thru our retirement and are now broke. I have to swallow my pride and ask for assistance. Now you know my story. I have been a positive influence in the chemo room, others getting treatment look forward to my coming in. I refuse to become the disease. I have become friends with and helped many. Here I thought I was bulletproof! HA!
Prayers still needed for healing mentally and physically.
To keep from being n ongoing issue, I would like to open a Breakfast and Lunch diner. If you or someone you know has a grill, deep fryer, or vent hood I will have to have these pieces to make it work. I will also need tables and chairs. Cash donations are still needed for leasing a place.
God Bless all.
Rick & Melanie Tolliver
- Linda Brown Koenig
- Michael Matula
- Izabella Boyd
- Joann Rabago
- Brenda Williams